Month: August 2015

A Condiment for All Seasons

Sweet and savory are always flavor characteristics I enjoy. Even more interesting is getting both characteristics to play off one another in the same bite. For me, one of the best ways to achieve that is to prepare a chutney or mostarda, one of which can always be found in one form or another in my larder.

Over the years I have learned that there are as many ways to make these sweet and savory condiments as there are ingredients to feature. And at this time of the season, spring, summer, moving into fall, the choices are many. For example, apricots or rhubarb in spring, peaches or plums in summer and apples, cranberries, pears, or various squashes are good choices for the fall.

Chutneys and mostardas lend themselves to liberal flavor combinations, which is part of the fun in their preparation. The approach is to mix and match the spices and sweeteners used to enhance the overall flavor of the fruits or vegetables, while keeping a focus on how the end product will eventually be served. Two examples might be as an accompaniment to a grilled or roasted dish, or as a component of a cheese plate.

Rather than having many recipes to reference each time I wanted a chutney or mostarda, what I was looking to accomplish with my work on this post was to develop a master base from which I could then mix and match the other flavor elements to complement the combination of fruits and/or vegetables to be featured.


All-Season Base

1/4 cup olive oil
1 to 2 medium onions, rough chopped
5 to 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 knob fresh ginger or 2 to 3 slices dried, minced
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 scant teaspoons turmeric
2 two-inch cinnamon sticks
5 to 6 whole bay leaves
1 cup honey of your choice
1/2 cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Some suggested additions and or substitutions:
Raisins, allspice berries, citrus zest, cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns, star anise, vanilla bean, and in the case of a mostarda, dry mustard powder and/or mustard oil.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and salt, mixing to combine. Sauté until the aromatic vegetable mix begins to soften.

Lightly crush the mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle. Add the crushed seeds along with the turmeric, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, again mixing to combine and continue to sauté to allow the spice mix to infuse the base, approximately 5 minutes.

Next raise the heat and add the honey, again mixing to combine and bring the base to a gentle boil. Add the vinegar and gently boil for approximately 5 minutes more.

Now it is time to add either the fruit or vegetable as the main ingredient. Four medium peaches were the stars in this chutney recipe!

Halve the peaches and gently twist to remove the large stone (seed), quarter the cut halves and then cut those across in half or thirds depending upon the size of the peach used. No need to peel the fruit.

Scatter the cut fruit over the simmering chutney base and mix to combine. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for an hour, mixing frequently so as not to stick or burn. If the mixture appears to be too thick and dry, moisten and thin with the addition of a small amount of water or white wine. If using the wine, set aside some to moisten your palate as you complete the cooking of the dish!

At the end of an hour the fruit should be softened. Remove the pan from the heat, uncover, and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a bowl to cool completely. Finally, spoon the mixture into small jars and refrigerate up to 1 month or freeze for up to 6 months.

Peach chutney with fresh chèvre

Next I’m going to explore how I might coax a chutney or perhaps a savory marmalade out of radicchio. Why not share what fruit or vegetable you turn into your new favorite chutney recipe?